performing arts chair
since colonial days, friends select school has been part of philadelphia’s educational landscape and 50 years ago reaffirmed its commitment to remain in the city by constructing the current building. the school recently adopted a new strategic plan to “reimagine an unparalleled quaker education in downtown philadelphia.”
philadelphia, pa – In his colonial vision for planning a “greene countrie towne,” William Penn placed a premium on educating children and Quaker schools forged a foundation for the city’s future growth.
A noble experiment from 1689 continues today at Friends Select School, where performing arts help to encourage spiritual, social and intellectual development of nearly 600 students. The highly-ranked pre-k-12 institute boasts a 100 percent graduation rate.
“We strive to teach all of our students that music belongs to them,” explains Heather Fortune, who chairs Performing Arts and serves as lead advisor to the senior class. “They don’t have to follow cultural scripts of what music should be like, but can develop their own curiosity and tastes, remaining open to a wide variety of music.” For instance, the Upper School Ensemble performs a symphony alongside popular music, jazz, Latin and other styles. “Each year, they walk away owning all of that music while becoming open and able to find interesting things in different genres,” she says.
As a teacher, Heather enjoys observing the entire arc of a student’s musical life. “It’s an incredibly rich experience, especially those moments when kids struggling with their instruments in Middle School dedicate themselves and work hard to become stars in our Upper School program.”
Having the best possible instruments for the study of music is “hugely important,” she adds. “It enables a smoother learning process. When the instrument responds as it is supposed to, students learn better technique. When the instrument makes a beautiful tone, students learn to play more expressively.”
For concerts and recitals in the school’s newly-renovated theater, Friends Select chose a new Boston GP-156 Performance Edition II grand piano from Jacobs Music Company. She says students covet a chance to practice on a new piano that also delivers a great source of inspiration for choir rehearsals.
“The new theater makeover just didn’t feel complete until we received this Boston piano. It gleams on stage and reminds everyone that this is a space where amazing things can happen.”